Law revision eyed to sue locales

Kyodo News

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to have a law revised that will enable the government to file suits against local governments over perceived violations of laws and regulations, ministry sources said Wednesday.

In such suits, the central government would seek court rulings on the legality of actions by local governments if they are suspected of having violated laws but refuse to take corrective action.

Under the envisioned new system, the central government would be able to file lawsuits in cases such as the one involving the Akune Municipal Government in Kagoshima Prefecture, where the mayor made a series of controversial decisions on his own authority, if the mayor were to refuse to respond to the state’s request for corrective action.

Along with rules governing local referendums, the new judicial mechanism is expected to be written into a draft bill to revise the Local Autonomy Law, which will be submitted to the regular Diet session to that convenes later this month.

Court rulings in such cases would not be binding, but the ministry hopes judicial decisions weigh heavily on actions taken by local governments, according to the sources.

But the proposed change may also come in for criticism, as it may go against moves to grant local governments greater autonomy.

The Local Autonomy Law stipulates that local governments can file complaints with the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council if they disagree with the central government’s calls for rectification of local governments’ improper handling of administrative affairs.

If they are dissatisfied with the third-party organization’s decisions, they can file suits. But the central government is not allowed to file complaints or suits against local governments, leading experts to say the system lacks balance.